Saturday, December 7, 2013
A few days ago I blogged about the surprising magic of those places where river meets sea. I included a photo of Goosefare Brook flowing out into Saco Bay.
I decided afterward to turn around 180 -- to trace Goosefare Brook back to its source. One tiny little winding artery, emptying its waters into the Gulf of Maine day in & day out.
Goosefare Brook manages, somehow, to miss southern Maine’s major river, the Saco. The Saco runs for 120 miles, starting high in the White Mountains in New Hampshire; its watershed drains over 1,700 square miles! Yet the humble Goosefare collects its waters right beside the Saco, sometimes within a mile of it, and never empties into it.
Here’s the brook running out under Seaside Avenue at the edge of Saco and Ocean Park, toward the sea.
Behind the bridge, heading north, Goosefare runs through protected marshland, part of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge.
Out of sight, the brook wends back and forth through thick woodlands, then past the manicured fairways of Biddeford-Saco Country Club. It peeks out again at Old Orchard Road, already now shrunken to a small creek.
North of Old Orchard Road the brook winds untidily toward I-195, the short spur road connecting the Maine Turnpike to Old Orchard Beach.
Goosefare Brook passes under I-195 in an undignified culvert and is quickly lost headed north into a thicket of woods.
In the deep woods the brook takes a hard turn to the west. It can next be spotted from Ross Road, sitting at the bottom of a deep valley. (The road here is narrow, surprisingly busy, and with no place to pull off -- sorry for the action shot.)
West of Ross Road, the deep valley widens into a broad scrubby plain. Goosefare can be seen again from Rt. 1
Here’s how it appears looking south from the Rt. 1 bridge.
West of Rt 1 and the Eastern Trail path, Goosefare Brook disappears again into private property, swampy marshes, and deep woodland. Its path takes it back toward I-195, where again it is culverted ungently, until it reappears as a ragged stream at the Industrial Road exit ramp.
After Industrial Road, Goosefare Brook -- now a tiny stream -- is lost again / found again amid the confusion of cloverleafs, interstates, and train tracks where I-195 meets the Maine Turnpike. The next -- and last -- place it can be seen clearly in public is passing under Jenkins Road.
By this point, we are near the brook’s source. The early waterway is little more than a wet depression in the ground. Here it is looking NW from Jenkins Road heading back to its source.
And what is the source of Goosefare Brook? None other than a marvelous -- and often overlooked -- nature preserve called Saco Heath. Barely 5 miles (in a straight line) from the ocean. Here is a view southeast from the boardwalk across the heath.
Off in that unruly mass of peat, sheep laurel, blueberry bushes, cottongrass, and sedge, beads of water from local rain slowly pool together into trickles. Trickles drip off slowly along to the heath’s edges. There, they coalesce, sending off streams of water gently & lazily toward Saco Bay: Deep Brook, Foxwell Brook, Dennett Brook.
When you start looking for connections between the ocean and your daily world, you start seeing them. Everywhere.
Visiting a Maine beach in March 2010, Harold Johnson was shocked by the ocean-borne debris left by recent storms. He grabbed a garbage bag and a camera, and hasn’t looked back.
Since then he has spent most of his free time studying marine pollution, coastal ecosystems, and the mysteries and science of ocean and shore.
Copyeditor and writer by trade, historian and archaeologist at heart, Johnson’s philosophy is simple: Dig below the surface, travel the currents, make the connections, learn. Then share what you learn. He lives in Saco with his wife and young daughter. Follow on Twitter @FlotsamDiaries.